Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
“Evenflow,” “The Tide Is High,” “Bleeding Love” – there are many tunes on a woman’s mixtape, and it’s no secret that period symptoms are just as confounding as they are uncomfortable. Read on to learn how Co-Founders of Hummingway, Ashley Greene Khoury & Olivia Khoury, are not only working to make education around the female reproductive system more accessible but also creating easy-to-use solutions that put a stop to period woes.
Ashley, as an actress with an extensive film career, how did you find your way into the femcare space as a Co-Founder of Hummingway?
AGK: “I come from a family that was doctor and medicine know best. For a long time, I lived my life based on this guiding principle until recently when I made a 180-degree choice to get off of every prescription that I had been on, including hormonal birth control. Removing hormonal birth control from my regimen was the one that threw my body through the biggest loop.”
“Hormonal birth control doesn’t regulate your hormones, it actually stops the communication between your reproductive system and your brain. When I rebooted that process, I had all of these symptoms that I didn’t realize my birth control was suppressing. From acne to mood swings and debilitating cramps, I went through the gambit of symptoms, only to be met with the solution of getting back on hormonal birth control. At this point, I was very frustrated. Not only was there no explanation for why I was feeling these symptoms, but there was also no non-toxic solution.”
“Finally, I opened up to Olivia. I was thirty-something and had no control over what was happening to my body. I felt embarrassed and alone in my experiences until I spoke with my sister-in-law.”
Olivia, can you tell us more about how you transitioned from Creative Director at Free People to Co-Founder of Hummingway?
OK: “I was lucky to grow up with my mom – she always challenged us to look for the root cause and to do our own research on what we were putting into our bodies. While I have personally never been on birth control, I still haven’t always felt the best in my body. My experience coming to Hummingway is also personal. Three years ago I was diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) – a condition that causes severe anxiety, depression and irritability two weeks before your period.
“Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve tried to manage it holistically through herbs, adaptogens, CBD and meditation. Just as important, and something that we discovered during our research for Hummingway, was mapping our diet and nutrition. If we could plan out our social and work schedule as much as we could, it was beneficial to line it up with our Whole Cycle Wellness.”
What is Whole Cycle Wellness?
AGK: When we first started this mission, one of our initial thoughts was, ‘why aren’t there any non-toxic solutions out there?’ The bigger picture is truly the lack of education on women’s reproductive systems.”
“I had no idea what the key player hormones were in my body and I think that is extremely important. We are on a mission to have a two-prong company. The first is to introduce our debut product – The Cycle Soother, a non-toxic solution for menstrual cycle cramps and pain. It is a transdermal patch that you can put on and it lasts 24 hours. We feel that it is really exciting and innovative because it is something that you put on and bypass all of the metabolic systems bringing the relief right to your bloodstream. You can wear the patch throughout the day – while you exercise, while you shower – and it integrates into your life easily, which was essential for us.”
“The second part was to create an educational platform to go alongside Hummingway’s products. So, we created ‘The Regular’ – an online destination to be your guide encompassing every stage of a person’s life. Through the process of bringing Hummingway to life, Liv and I have found that not only is there a lot of information out there, but there is also a lot of misinformation, which can be very overwhelming.”
“So, we want to make sure that we tackle things that are complex – like hormone normality – in an easy and digestible way. That is why we have an incredible team of medical advisors who make sure that everything is scientifically-backed and fact-checked. Then we work with some incredible writers to help make it digestible.”
Why do you think it is still so confusing to navigate the femcare space and how are you differentiating yourselves from other brands in this category?
OK: “It is truly a rewiring of the brain. With Hummingway, what Ashley and I hope to do is open up the floor for people to share their personal stories. By sharing, we believe that this is the first step to reclaiming your health and learning the facts, whether it be from The Regular or our board of medical advisors. If you can equip yourself with the right questions for your doctor, you can take up more space. So, instead of feeling spoken to, you can direct the conversation and ask the right questions.”
AGK: “I think one of the reasons why right now it is so confusing and there is so much conflicting information is because there is a huge gender gap. Once a piece of information is out there, people get very excited, and then it gets pinged all over the web, but it may not be fully accurate or another company may tout conflicting information making this space very hard to navigate. That is why we are so keen on making sure that everything was scientifically-backed and that everything was fact-checked because we want you to know that when you are coming to Hummingway and when you are reading The Regular, everything that you are getting is correct, so there are no lingering questions.”
Can you describe the experience of launching a brand in this era?
OK: “Awareness is what is going to break down this stigma that surrounds our reproductive systems, periods, menopause and beyond. This mission is so important to Ashley and me, and with Hummingway, we really want to feel like the friend in your back pocket that you could just as easily whip your phone out and talk to.”
“The direct-to-consumer approach really gives us the ability to have that relationship where we can get on email or Geneva and write those personalized notes or respond to comments on social or our website. Many of us don't have that intimate, personal and even personalized relationship when it comes to learning about your cycle.”
“This is why Ashley and I are really excited about new and upcoming partnerships. Right now, we are partnering up with a mindfulness studio in Los Angeles, but we are thrilled to align with other retail locations and studios that have the same core values as us.”
As founders featured in our “Quality Makers” series, what does “quality” mean to you?
AGK: “Quality to me means never settling and taking the hard road to make sure that the product you are putting out works well so that consumers know that they are getting the best of the best. Olivia and I have spent the last two years of our life working on Hummingway, and we could have probably done it in six months, but it was more important to us that we checked every box and launched the brand correctly.”
OK: “Very much in line with everything Ashley said, but I would also add ingredients. It is so important to know the ingredients that we are putting into our bodies, especially when we have been in the dark for so long. Because this is something that we have been in the dark about for so long, it is so important to us that we are very transparent about what is in our products and how our ingredients are sustainably sourced. We just need to have that transparency because to me that is quality.”
What dreams and goals do you have for Hummingway as you continue to grow?
AGK: “Everything is a bit under lock and key, but we are so excited about the future of Hummingway. There are a couple of different products we are working towards both in and out of the menstrual space. Big picture, Olivia and I want Hummingway to be a company that takes you through prepubescent all the way to post-menopausal.”
“We are also looking at products that are symptom-related, but ideally we want to focus on solutions that get ahead of that symptom. If we can give you products to integrate into your everyday life before you actually get to menstruation and mitigate the problem, that is the end goal.”
“While part of the business is planned, the other part is really based on what our consumer needs. Even just between Liv and I, we have wildly different symptoms and we experience wildly different things. This is true for our consumers, and we have to look at a very diverse crowd of people to best serve the communities around us. You can have a laid-out plan but I am sure that we are going to pivot depending on what the masses say or tell us.”
Often disappointed with a majority of period soothers, I decided to put Hummingway to the test. Usually plagued with terrible cramps, my typical woes were significantly reduced using the transdermal patch on my lower abdomen. While Hummingway can’t completely get rid of our periods, you can definitely add it to the list of things (like carbs, sweets and Nora Ephron movies) that help. Try The Cycle Soother for yourself here.
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